logo   The Dried Rat-Dog (OD12004)
Musicians Peter Brötzmann — tarogato, e-flat clarinet, alto/tenor sax
Hamid Drake — frame drum, tablas, drums
Cover and Artwork cover

Cover art & booklet concept: Peter Brötzmann
Graphic design: Louise Molnar
Photography: Fred Burkhart

Songs 1. The Dried Rat-Dog (15:50)
2. It’s an Angel on the Door (6:51)
3. Open into the Unknown (5:17) (MPEG2)
4. Trees Have Roots in the Earth (10:57)
5. The Uninvited Entertainer (16:09)
6. Dark Wings Carry Off the Sky (7:21)
total time: 63:24

All compositions by P. Brötzmann (GEMA); H. Drake (Smiling Forehead/BMI)

Recording Info

Recorded at Sparrow Sound Design, Chicago, IL, May 24, 1994

Produced by: Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake & John Corbett
Executive Producer: Bruno Johnson
Engineer: Bradley Parker-Sparrow

Liner Notes

When they recorded Interstellar Space in 1967, John Coltrane and Rashied Ali set a very high standard for the pairing of drums and horns. It’s proved a sturdy, if not exactly standard, instrumentation — think of subsequent duets between Ali and Frank Lowe, Max Roach and Archie Shepp or Anthony Braxton, Evan Parker and John Stevens, Han Bennink and Willem Breuker, Jimmy Lyons and Andrew Cyrille, Fred Anderson and Steve McCall, Steve Lacy and Steve Arguelles, Mats Gustafsson and Paul Lovens. Drums and reeds work well together, leaving the energy, drive, and punctual power without either the bass or piano to suggest or demand a particular harmonic territory. It’s a direct intimate line of communication between two complementary instruments, but it’s a demanding format as well, each player bare, open for all ears to hear, with nothing much to hide behind

Peter Brötzmann loves to play with drummers. He’s worked with some of the very best, including long-term stands with Bennink, Louis Moholo, and Ronald Shannon Jackson. But his duo with Chicagoan Hamid Drake is something else, something very special. In the half-dozen or so times I’ve seen them since Leo Krumpholtz first paired them a few years back for a concert at Southend Musicworks (Drake replaced East German pianist Ulrich Gumpert, who couldn’t make the tour), it’s gradually become my favorite setting for the tenor Teuton. Indeed, I’d venture to say that The Dried Rat-Dog is the best Brötz record in 15 years (probably his best sounding record ever!), packed with unexpected gestures, warmth, subtlety, gumbo, vulnerability, and enough passion and blast to remind you you’re alive.

Drake brings out a rarely seen gentle side of Brötzmann; it was always there, just eclipsed by his more mondo mania. With an unerring sense of time and gritty swing, Drake plays body music. He has a loving brush that’ll lull you and a strong stroke that’ll clobber you — either way physical response is required. His trap solo on the title cut shows what conviction and presence he has; nothing tentative or unfocused about those rhythmic ideas. Brötz’s reaction to the percussionist’s big-eared internationalism and Edward Blackwellian polyrhythms is to counter with highly, charged rhythmic reed work; the first surprise listening to this record will come from Brötzmann’s intricate rhythmic interplay, his brilliant clipped staccato exchanges and disquieting, pulsed, mourning dove cooing on "The Uninvited Entertainer," for instance. Or his sensuous, rhythmic, vaguely Middle Eastern e-flat clarinet lines on "Open into the Unknown."

Drake’s use of tabla, frame drums and hand drums is at once culturally reverent and appropriate to the particular session. On "The Uninvited Entertainer," he defies both geographical barriers and gravity, playing Indian tabla and North African frame drum simultaneously. I doubt that Brötz would sit still for world music unless it had the power to overcome any peacenik, multi-culti connotations; he’s not a "one love" kinda guy. But Drake’s music — informed by decades of work in reggae and blues bands, with Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle orchestra, in Mesopotamian frame drum duets with Michael Zerang, in various groups led by Fred Anderson, and in every other nook of the rhythm world — is music of awesome power.

In recent years it’s become much more common for saxophonists to extend their expressive capabilities by circular breathing — there’s hardly anything novel about it anymore. But it would be difficult to imagine Brötzmann circular breathing, not only because it requires a technical conceit that goes against his anti-technical aesthetic, but, because Brötzmann’s basic unit is the breath. Every tone he makes he pushes forth with the motion of exhaling giving sound the breath of life, bringing agitated life to each breath. And his phrasing, like that of the older jazz musicians he admires (from Lester Young to Sonny Rollins), is organized into breath-length lines; each of his statements is articulated with the capacity of his lungs, a finite, flesh-and-blood means of expression.

In this, as well, we find the reason that Brötzmann always sounds so vocal. It’s not just that he has that inimitable burr, that sandpaper tone that gives his horn-voice such grain, but he plays each line with the gale force wind of his barrel chest; if you ever doubt his seriousness, remember that he once broke a rib blowing. Listen to the melancholy cry of his unaccompanied tenor at the close of "Trees Have Roots in the Earth." And the ominous, spiritual bird of prey chronicled in "Dark Wings Carry off the Sky." Even in his most extreme, strangulated, overblown ejaculations, Brötzmann is at heart a singer, a tooler of breath, his horn a long and strangely-shaped larynx.

A lovely night in late April. Walking to the Hopleaf bar to meet Bruno for drinks (rum and coke, a little bourbon: a good burn after the long day) following nice dinner on the night of the recordings. Earlier, lunch with Hamid whose smile could melt a candle. Dark sky, stars, warm breeze. Looking down one of the sidestreets Terri points at a little pet on its evening walk. "Rat-dog," she mumbles quietly. "Hmm. Rat-dog. Rattenhund." Brötzmann smiles brushing back his beard as he does when he thinks. "Zat’s not baaad! Have to check it with Hamid...but I like it." So do I, very much.

- John Corbett
Chicago, November 1994


Reviews **** (4 stars)

Drake is a particularly perceptive and persuasive partner for Brötzmann. The great advantage of The Dried Rat-Dog is Bradley Parker-Sparrow’s excellent sound, which lets one hear the nuances in both men’s playing. Drake’s rhythms have a steadier, more momentous pulse than most free-jazz drumming, and his use of frame drums and tablas adds a global touch that sits quite comfortably next to the saxophonist’s characteristic energy. There are six pieces, brimful of eloquent interplay, and on “Trees Have Roots in the Earth” and “Dark Wings Carry Off the Sky”, Brötz uncorks some of his most vivid tenor playing for a long time.

— Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, fifth edition